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Energy chief Chu turns in resignation

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 7:22 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who won a Nobel Prize in physics but came under questioning for his handling of a solar energy loan, is stepping down.

In a letter, Chu offered his resignation on Friday to President Obama. Chu said he will stay on the job at least until the end of February and might stay until a successor is confirmed.

Chu drew fire from congressional Republicans who criticized his handling of a $528 million federal loan to solar panel maker Solyndra, which later went bankrupt and laid off its 1,100 workers. He also was criticized for approving the plan to restructure Solyndra's debt so that two private investors moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment in case of default.

Chu's departure had been widely expected and follows departure announcements by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson; and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The White House said no decisions have been made on replacements for any of the environment and energy jobs, but it said Obama's priorities remain unchanged.

Potential replacements for Chu include former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Obama said in a statement that Chu brought a “unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy.”

Chu helped move the country toward energy independence, Obama said, referring to billions of dollars in Energy Department loans to boost renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.

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